I can't think of anything to write about, so how about a movie review? Sounds good to me...
The other actor I have issues with is Denzel Washington. Not his acting so much (he's pretty phenomenal) but his attitude. The persona that comes through his performances. He has a big chip on his shoulder all the time. Like all the time. Every character he plays has this chip. And maybe that's Denzel's thing: playing the chips. But he's played his chips so often, I'm starting to feel that Denzel himself has a chip. Maybe he should play The Joker. I also still kinda hold a grudge about that time he advised Will Smith not to kiss another man on camera. I mean, even though he was in Philadelphia, that still does not sit well with me. Why did Will take on a gay role if he wasn't willing to smooch Anthony Michael Hall? I mean, it must've been in the script. Sorry, that was not cool. But I'm forgiving. Denzel, I'll lose my chip if you lose yours. Why don't you try being in a romantic comedy? I'd love to see you doing the Rock Hudson/Doris Day style bedroom romp! How about a remake of Send Me No Flowers? I think it would change all of our lives.
Denzel gives a fantastic performance in this. It's almost too good. The material is a bit on the trashy side (it's essentially a pulp/noir thriller/horror movie) so it almost doesn't deserve the full emotional treatment from the actor. I mean, there's a scene where Denzel cries and it seems out of place in this material. I'm glad he was willing to commit to that degree; but it isn't that kind of movie. That kind of emotion is too warm for it. This kind of movie needs to be ice cold, like Se7ven or The Silence of the Lambs. But even when Denzel gets emotional enough to cry, I still feel like he's not letting me all the way in. He's got so much machismo it sort of gets in the way of his acting. Let's face it, acting is kind of a feminine thing. Denzel would never kiss another man on screen. Isn't the refusal to do that the antithesis of what an actor is supposed to do? An actor is supposed to be a conduit for catharsis. Denzel, you have nothing to worry about. Kissing another man is not going to put the kibosh on your career. Maybe you should do that Pillow Talk remake with another dude. I guarantee you'll get an Oscar nom! On the other hand, I guess everyone has limitations. I mean, I doubt Tom Hanks would sign on to play a serial killer any time soon. We all have our brand, I guess.
Rami Malek is great in this too. He plays a conflicted homicide detective (what he's conflicted about is never really made clear. I suppose he's upset that the case he's working hasn't been solved. Makes sense to me). What a face he has! He's kind of like a svelte version of Peter Lorre. Or a praying mantis wearing a rubber mask. But many of the great stars were untraditionally beautiful. I love his swan-like neck and the way he moves his jaw when he talks. And his voice is strange; which he uses to great advantage. He steals scenes just by opening his mouth.
So, the plot, in a nutshell, is a traditional police procedural/serial killer scenario. It's set in 1990 and it has all the earmarks of a movie from that era. Say, the above mentioned titles or stuff the studios were pumping out then: Jade, Copycat, Fallen (which starred Mr. Washington) etc. Jared Leto is the main suspect in a string of murders of young women. Denzel, who formerly worked similar cases in Los Angeles (he's now a cop "up north"), encounters Rami on a routine evidence pick-up. Denzel was something of a legend on the homicide squad and Rami picks his brain for insight that might help him solve the case (is Jared the perp or isn't he?). They bond and soon have a mentor/mentee thing happening. As the story unfolds we see that everyone is involved in the case on deeper and deeper levels. Denzel wants to take out Leto on a personal level. Malek wants to stop him for more straightforward reasons (or does he?). The story is an excuse to take us on a film noir tour of Los Angeles, more often than not, at night. Los Angeles at night is truly a creepy place. Never truly dark or entirely lit. It's literally The Edge of Night (half dark/half light) there when it's dark. The cinematographer, John Schwartzman (total pro) ratchets up that creepiness, making it slightly darker and infusing it with a ghastly glow of greenish light. He deserves an Oscar for it.
Speaking of Oscars...which brings us to Jared Leto's performance. I have to say he's pretty amazing here. He takes what has become one of the most cliched roles (cliched because it's been done so many times now by so many actors): the creepy serial killer; and brings it to some weird other level. It's like he removed his own head and replaced it with that wax head he brought to the Met Gala, killed himself and became an actual ghost and then went before the camera. He is the person you do not ever want to run into on a dark road at night or in an alley or when he comes to repair the fridge. He's haunting.
The movie leaves you questioning the motivations of the characters long after the movie is over. When you think about the events in the film, you start saying, "Hey, wait a second..." pondering some of the mystery you weren't aware of when you were watching it. That's the mark of a good movie for me. The film does, however, suffer from a preponderance of Hollywood moments: a California freeway being devoid of vehicles except for the two being driven by the stars. A field of hard earth having a dozen six foot holes dug into it by one person in the course of an evening. Physically impossible. And a choice one of the characters makes that almost ruins the entire film: the decision that no one ever, would ever make. Even when one is that conflicted.
So, thank you writer/director (and fellow Sagittarian) John Lee Hancock for entertaining me without any of the gratuitous ultra-violence.